The quantity dial additionally hides a secret (or two). Beyond the mundane perform of controlling the loudness of your music, it additionally syncs with the quantity in your supply system when related by way of 3.5mm or Bluetooth. Turn the music up in your cellphone and watch the dial magically transfer by itself. When I instinctively reached for the quantity management on to see if there was any resistance from the clearly embedded motor, it wasn’t there. This is cute and intelligent all of sudden, and also you’ll end up utilizing the cellphone, not the knob, to vary the quantity even when it’s inside attain.
Later on, as you search to find all the OB-4’s secrets and techniques, you’ll inevitably come across one other perform of the quantity management, and that’s as a pitch/pace management. Hold down the Input button whereas music is enjoying, attain for the quantity dial, and your music will decelerate or pace up relying on which approach you twist it. Scratching, looping and pitch management? This speaker is unquestionably the world’s weirdest DJ software.
It was the looping that hooked me probably the most. I attempted it past the analog drumming of The Power of Love, a lot to the annoyance of my partner, who in all probability simply wished to take heed to a tune the old style approach (from begin to end). But with the OB-4, each tune or sound is immediately simply fodder for all of the bizarre issues you are able to do with it and looping might be probably the most satisfying. Push down each the Input and Play buttons whereas any music supply is energetic and it’ll begin recording a loop. Let go to mark the endpoint and the OB-4 will maintain enjoying that part till you launch it with a faucet of the Play button (a right-facing arrow seems on the mini show any time you’re now not listening in real-time to remind you).
There are some utilitarian features underpinning all this in fact. The incontrovertible fact that the OB-4 is quietly recording each sound it performs lets you rewind dwell radio, or skim again by means of a recording or interview in a brand new approach (the pace management additionally permits you to play issues in reverse/rewind). You’ll have two hours earlier than it begins recording over what’s in its reminiscence, so you possibly can revisit a lot of no matter you have got been listening to, no matter supply that got here from.
Oh, there’s an app amongst all this curiosity, too. It’s the identical orthoplay app you would possibly have already got if you happen to personal Teenage Engineering’s different speaker, the OD-11, and it’s an ocean of calm and ease. None of the wacky options might be accessed right here, solely quantity management (which additionally strikes the bodily knob remotely), transport controls and enter choice.
We haven’t received to arguably the weirdest half but, which is the “disk” mode. Teenage Engineering describes it as a spot for experimental options. As of this writing, it has three major modes: an atmospheric drone that makes use of snippets from the radio to create an unfolding ambiance; a metronome; and a “karma” mode that options calming sounds and (a number of, too many?) Amituofo-style chants. As I write this, I’m listening to program 14, one of many extra soothing ones. Sadly, you possibly can’t loop or remix these, however then I suppose that might defeat the purpose.
For all its Amituofos and DJ-esque options, the OB-4 is a speaker firstly. The two four-inch drivers are bolstered by a pair of neodymium tweeters and the outcome could be very pleasing. As a conveyable speaker, it’s considerably beholden to the atmosphere you place it in, however once I listened to a track I’ve heard a thousand instances earlier than, I believed one thing was mistaken… till I spotted I used to be simply listening to parts of the drums that I had by no means been in a position to discover earlier than. This doesn’t imply the entire tune sounded higher — simply that it was shining a lightweight on frequencies that my different audio system apparently overlook.
This factor is loud, too. Teenage Engineering claims it’ll throw out round 100dB, which in lay phrases is usually generally known as “plenty”. A cutout on both aspect provides the bass sufficient room to throb, even when it’s grainy hip-hop on the radio. In reality, particularly when it’s grainy hip-hop on the radio.
You can, in fact, plug this factor in however the OB-4 is primarily a wi-fi speaker. Teenage Engineering claims you possibly can eke out 72 hours of radio listening at “normal” quantity, which slides down to only eight hours of full-blast Bluetooth streaming. That can be an intense eight hours, however for most individuals you’re prone to get a day or two’s diversified listening out of every cost.
There are a few issues that the OB-4 doesn’t have which can be price mentioning. Most notably, for me, is the shortage of a line out. I do know it is a speaker itself, however I do really feel it’s a missed alternative that I can’t report a few of the wackiness I’ve carried out with it, or feed it into one thing else. There can also be no “smart” element right here, not less than within the traditional sense. There’s no digital assistant help (not that I believe anybody accustomed to Teenage Engineering was anticipating it), which on condition that it’s the worth of two Apple Home Pods, feels price mentioning. Just use the assistant in your cellphone and transfer on I suppose?
There’s additionally, at the moment, no direct integration with different Teenage Engineering merchandise, which undoubtedly is one thing followers of the company would possibly count on. That’s simply “for now” although. When I requested a company consultant about this, I used to be assured it’s on its approach (together with new options on disk mode, one thing else that was touted at launch), however no particulars on when and what.
I do know it’s not almost as enjoyable as listening to a mantra over a standing bell or remixing 80s dad pop on the fly, however we actually ought to speak about that value. By any requirements, $600 is a lot for a conveyable speaker. In reality, I struggled to search out most of the best-known good audio system that price a lot over $200. Of course, Sonos’ Move will set you again $400 however you’ll get much more sensible performance, music-wise (albeit no FM radio tuner!).
This places the OB-4 within the subsequent stage up, the place manufacturers like Bang and Olufsen like to hang around. Its nearest equal portable speaker is $500, so a cool hundred lower than Teenage Engineering’s. Though the Danish legacy model additionally has fashions that can run you over $1,500 if you actually need to spend it.
Teenage Engineering is aware of this speaker is spendy. It made certain to remind me at launch that this took six years of R&D (that motorized quantity dial wasn’t simple we presume). It’s additionally a small company that proudly makes area of interest merchandise. Still, it’s an enormous ask. But, like every part that the company makes, I’m glad it exists and might’t wait to see what else it might do additional down the road.